University College Offers Unique Opportunities for Students Interested In Renewable Energy


October 19, 2011

Texas Tech students interested in exploring a career in renewable energy can now expand their knowledge and skill set through University College. Career opportunities in renewable energy are growing, and wind energy is expected to be a key contributor to this burgeoning market.

A 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Energy projects that wind energy could generate 20 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030 and Texas is poised to respond to this demand. The Department of Energy’s “2010 Wind Technologies Market Report” ranks Texas above all other states when considering installed wind power capacity in the U.S.

Texas Tech University’s location in the Great Plains “wind corridor” makes for an ideal environment to learn more about wind energy, and University College is committed to preparing students for a career in this growing industry.

University College’s course offerings are unique in that the courses and program options are designed using a multidisciplinary approach – coursework focuses on multiple segments of the renewable energy industry rather than providing an education based solely in engineering. This allows students pursuing careers in law, business, agriculture or architecture to also take wind energy courses as electives or even pursue an undergraduate major, minor, or certificate in wind energy.

The College’s program options prepare students to fill various positions in the wind power industry by exposing them to a variety of courses in economics & finance in wind energy, personnel & project management, regulatory policy, and wind power conversion.

“Our vision is that students will gain more exposure to and develop a greater understanding of the renewable energy business, with a focus on wind energy,” said Dr. Andrew Swift, director of the Texas Wind Energy Institute and professor of civil engineering. “If you have a passion for renewable energy and energy in general, and you’d like to launch yourself in that career, University College’s wind energy offerings are a good place to start.”

There are multiple learning options available for students, depending on their personal career path and academic interests. Students may consider taking one or two courses as electives to enhance their academic portfolio. The undergraduate minor in wind energy requires students to successfully complete18 credit hours of coursework in wind energy. And an undergraduate certificate in wind energy is also available, consisting of 10 credit hours of wind energy coursework that introduces students to the fundamentals of the wind power industry.

“The undergraduate certificate is a good option for engineering degree-seeking students with an interest in the wind energy industry and who don’t have enough time in their curriculum for completing a minor in wind energy,” Swift said. He recommends that people interested in designing wind turbines should get an engineering degree and pursue either the minor in wind energy or a graduate certificate in wind energy to supplement the degree.

Students may also consider pursuing the Bachelor of Science in Wind Energy degree, which has been specifically designed to prepare non-engineers for a career in wind energy. “The Bachelor of Science in Wind Energy degree is very broad and covers many aspects of the energy sector and particularly the wind energy industry” said Swift. “This degree will prepare our graduates to go out and work in the wind industry – mostly in a managerial capacity as opposed to a person who wants to design wind turbines. And the administrative, managerial, regulatory, and applied atmospheric science areas of wind energy are where most of the jobs are.”

Currently the only degree program of its kind, the bachelor’s degree is specifically designed to incorporate an “international experience” by requiring students to participate in an internship with an international company (in the U.S. or overseas) working in the field of wind energy, or through a wind energy-related study abroad program. This element gives graduates a competitive edge upon entering the global workforce.

Graduate students and professionals can also expand their skill set by pursuing one of two graduate certificate programs, each of which includes 15 credit hours of graduate-level coursework. The technical graduate certificate is designed for students interested in technical aspects such as engineering and design, while the managerial graduate certificate is designed for students interested in supervisory roles in wind energy.

While the Bachelor of Science in Wind Energy requires students to complete coursework on the Lubbock campus, the certificates, minor and many of the courses are offered online. These online offerings provide flexibility that makes it possible for recent graduates and working professionals to continue their education and expand their knowledge in wind energy, thus enhancing their professional development.

Swift advises students that a strong foundation in math and science is essential for successfully completing any of the wind energy courses. Students planning on studying wind energy should understand that this is a science degree and prepare accordingly. “It’s not engineering, but you do need to possess a foundation in mathematics, statistics, and the basic sciences,” said Swift. “And of course, reading, writing, communication, and team skills are also hugely important.”

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